Although hills may not always be the most fun to climb, they almost always offer stunning picturesque views. And across Europe there are countless fairy-tale hilltop towns that are must see destinations.
Experience the high life on your next holiday by checking out some of our favourite European towns on hills. And don’t forget to buy your travel insurance before your trip in case your travel plans unexpectedly go downhill.
A beautiful hillside town set in the Portuguese countryside, Monsanto has been uniquely built around massive boulders. Even many of the houses have been built around, under, or even in the boulders. You will discover doorways actually built into some of the boulders and the town features a crazy array of twisting narrow streets carved into the rock. A medieval castle lies at the crown of the hill, overlooking the many red-roofed cottages below. This historic Portuguese town may be a bit remote, but it is sure to be unlike any town you will ever see. A visit during sunset offers an even more magical experience to this already dreamlike destination.
This lovely town offers incredible views of the Strait of Gibraltar and Morocco. Just a half hour drive from the Costa del Sol, this village is reached by a 24 km climb up a mountain road. The Castillo del Aguila, or Castle of the Eagle, overlooks the village which is home to a number of great hiking trails and birdwatching spots. The castle is open to visitors and you may even be able to catch a flamenco performance around the local convent. You can also enjoy mountain biking and horseback riding in the town’s natural surrounds. The nearby Los Alcornocales Natural Park is famous for its cork oaks from which many products are produced and can be purchased within the village. As a bonus, Gaucín also acts as a nice base for exploring the White Towns of Andalusia.
Set upon rolling green hills and surrounded by the Alps, Grindelwald is like something out of a storybook. Offering incredible winter skiing and scenic summer hiking trails, it also acts as a base for those wishing to climb the nearly 4,000 metre Eiger Mountain. It is all about the natural beauty in this town, where nature’s landmarks pull you in every direction. Be sure to check out the First Cliff Walk and the stunning reflections off Bachalpsee Lake. Enjoy gondola lift rides to save your legs a bit and relax later in classic wooden chalets. For Australians wanting to stay closer to home, there is also a Grindelwald in Northern Tasmania that is modelled after a Swiss village, but it of course lacks the dramatic hillside setting you’ll find in Switzerland.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of France’s most notable landmarks. A small town sits atop a domed island which is adorned with a castle-looking monastery dating back to the 8th century. The monastery overlooks the small town below it which is home to a few dozen residents. Seeing the iconic reflection of the monastery in the water of the bay requires checking the tide schedule to make sure you arrive at high tide. A bridge provides access to the island that can be reached by horse drawn carriage, bus, or a generous walk. Hike up the steps to tour Mont Saint-Michel Abbey, grab an omelette from La Mere Poulard, and don’t forget to seek out the island’s delicious butter cookies.
By far one of the world’s most beautiful coastal cliffside communities is Italy’s Cinque Terre. The Cinque Terre consists of not one but five seaside towns that together with the surrounding hillsides make up a national park. The region is famous for its colourful houses and vineyards that are set upon cliffs which overlook the boat filled sea below. The towns are linked by short train rides or if you are up for it you can take the Sentiero Azzurro hiking trail which also connects each village. Vernazza is the most picturesque of the five villages while Monterosso al Mare offers beach access. You will find incredibly fresh local seafood available no matter which town you find yourself in.